Welcome to Arden University’s Learning Ladder, a series of special features exploring the benefits, challenges, trends and opportunities associated with pursuing a higher education qualification while working in business.

From looking at how studying specific subjects can aid career progression - often in ways individuals have never even thought of - to examining how the very process of learning can build better business brains, over the coming months the Learning Ladder series will equip those considering ‘learning while earning’ with the tools, facts and practical advice they need to step up the career ladder with a degree, masters or MBA.

Topics to be covered are varied and will include: business strategy, finance, marketing, pitching ideas, making ‘the business case’, employer perceptions of qualifications, managing workloads, personal development, balancing working and learning, law, international business, employer sponsorship and communicating with colleagues.

Our first Learning Ladder will take a look at the commonly asked question – is a higher education qualification necessary to get ahead in business? Stay tuned for more….

Is a higher education qualification necessary to get ahead in business? It’s a question that has people falling over themselves to name drop Alan Sugar or Sir Richard Branson as absolute proof that success does not boil down to a piece of paper.

And of course, those people would be right. Having a degree or a masters isn’t the be all and end all of business success, not by any stretch. The problem is, that’s where the business/higher education debate usually ends when in fact a slightly different question warrants a very different response.

Can a higher education qualification help people get ahead in business? It can and it does. In fact, in a recent poll by YouGov over one in ten people said that they were in the right career precisely because of the education choices they’d made.

In the same poll, one in seven 35-54 year olds who intend to study in the next three years said their reasoning was to break through a ‘qualification glass ceiling’ at work. One in ten 45-54 year olds, individuals happy in their current career, feel held back by a lack of qualifications – individuals like Stuart Flemming.

Stuart Flemming, an Arden graduate, now has an MBA (Merit) and has been promoted to a role he loves, not because of a ‘piece of paper’ but because his qualification – studied entirely online - has made him a better businessman.

Matthew Cooper, Director of Postgraduate Programmes and MBA Programme Leader at Arden University explains:

“Students enrol on our online business-linked programmes from all over the world, from all kinds of backgrounds but generally they all have two things in common. They already have workplace experience (over 90% of our students are already employed) and know that adding the relevant theory to that experience will ultimately be better for them and better for the businesses in which they work.

“It’s all about praxis – the process by which a lesson or skill is enacted, the interface between theory and reality. By studying for a qualification such as an MBA, students who may have years of experience under their belt suddenly find they can answer the ‘why’ component behind various business outcomes or decisions. Having the ability to do that boosts their confidence, their self-belief and their skill set, ultimately making them better business men and women and attractive to employers looking to make their next promotion.

“I’ve recently been in touch with over 300 Arden University MBA alumni for feedback on their learning experience. The results were incredibly interesting. Outcomes varied; some achieved a promotion, some started their own business. For others, new skills meant a pay rise - one MBA (Law) graduate contacted me to say he has achieved a significant salary increase and is now able to work as an advisor to his VP.

“But one thing was common to all responses – each and every student said they are using the MBA skills they’ve acquired every single day, personally and professionally. Ask these students if a higher qualification can help get you get ahead in business and I’ve no doubt what their answer will be.”

Based on the Arden alumni feedback, here are the top 5 reasons why people already working in business should consider studying for a higher education qualification.

  1. It will build your self-confidence and self-belief
  2. You’ll be able to make a better ‘business case’ for the decisions you make/propose
  3. It will ensure your skills stay ‘current’ for a modern world
  4. You’ll understand areas outside your ‘comfort zone’ e.g. finance or HR
  5. It will open doors to new opportunities, new contacts and new job prospects

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